Monday, August 10, 2009

The Lady of the Pink City

I first remember reading about Gayatri Devi in 7th grade in a profile of her in Departure Magazine. She was the embodiment of everything that a young girl imagines a princess to be. She was beautiful and refined yet not completely tangible. It was almost as if she was ethereal somehow, leading a life that has long since rusted away in fairy tale books, unable to be fully captured through a story or a picture. They say that her wealth was "beyond imaginable" with a childhood filled with exotic adventures. According to a New York Times article, Devi shot her first panther when she 12, had a flock of trained parrots that could ride bicycles and pet turtles that had emerald encrusted shells.
Despite her lavish life, which included shopping sprees at Harrods, Devi was not resented by the public for her extreme wealth and beauty. Unlike Queen Marie Antoinette and the Duchess of Devonshire who were ridiculed by there subjects for their ostentatious nature Devi symbolized a beacon of hope for women of lower castes. She created a school for young girls in Jaipur that focused on eradicating the traditional notion that girls should be uneducated and take purdah. Devi led the life of a traditional princess yet reached her hand out to get a firmer grasp in her surroundings. She was elected in Parliament 3 times and spend 5 months in jail.
People often said that Devi was memorizing. With her French perfume and shimmering saris Devi was a socialite, splitting time between New York, London and Jaipur and entertaining the likes of Jackie O. Vogue voted her one of the top ten most beautiful women in the world. Yet this beauty was just as closely associated with Devi as it was with her city of Jaipur. And to me that is what is really alluring about Devi, her city. With it's beautiful palaces and ornate jewelry it seems like anyone could be a princess there, that everyone could live in a state of opulence. An opulence not defined by designer handbags but by a rich history. In Jaipur it seems that one gets a feeling of magnificence, a feeling that one cannot receive in a Waldorf Historia. It is a feeling of a culture, of a life that is hanging somewhere between obscelence and modernity. When Maharani Devi left our world a few days she left with us a city that is the one of the last of its kind, quite like Devi herself .

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